HGVs – From Then To Now

Posted on 11th February 2021 By Charlotte Haye

There is no denying that HGVs are a vital part of the UK economy, Without them, businesses across the country would fall apart, being unable to receive their supplies or ship out goods to customers. And businesses like Amazon, whose success is down to a network of HGVs, would cease to exist. But for something so critical, they didn’t always exist. There was a time when HGVs hadn’t even been thought of yet, and they went through a few transformations before they ended up as the enterprise we know today. Want to know what that looked like? Read on.


Early 1900s – The Birth of HGVS

Back in the early 1900s, HGVs hadn’t been imagined yet, and goods were transported along the limited roads by truck. But being a truck driver was a highly undesirable job. It was bumpy, rough, and very uncomfortable for the driver. This was mainly because tyres at the time were made from solid rubber, which transmitted every bump from the road up to the driver. But around 1912 the pneumatic tyre (which was filled with air) was invented, and this changed things. Driving was now more comfortable, and trucks could move quicker, which sped up the whole shipping and freighting process.

Another big influence on the success of HGV driving, or ‘trucking’ at this time actually came from America. In 1916, The Seattle Chamber of Commerce held a demonstration, and sponsored a truck and a driver to travel from Seattle to New York. This trip was designed to show manufacturers and merchants across the country that the new highways that were being built, and  trucks that were developed, were going to be major influences in the near future. And that if they didn’t get on board, they would be left behind! The trip was a huge success, and took a total of 31 days to complete.


The 1920s – Illumination Impact

Before the 1920s electric lights were mainly found in houses. But around this time they become compulsory to have on vehicles as well, and this small change meant massive progress in the haulage industry. Trucks and HGVs could now drive at night, which opened up a whole new world of opportunities. With drivers able to operate at night as well as during the day, drivers could take advantage of the lack of traffic to make deliveries quicker, which allowed businesses to grow more efficiently.

Around this time an enterprising engineer also realised that if they fitted a fifth wheel to the middle of the HGV, they could rapidly speed up the loading and unloading of trailers. Combined with electric headlights, HGVs had never been better equipped or more efficient. This caused a huge spike in demand, and thanks to the surge in new roads being built, this was the first real boom of the HGV industry, and there were around 329,000 new long-haul HGVs registered in the UK by the 1930s.


The 1950s – Wartime Changes

Of course, war changes everything, and the HGV industry was no exception. Before the 1950s long-haul driving was rare, thanks to the high price of diesel and petrol at the time. But now, there was a need to transport goods and supplies across the country quickly to reach troops, as well as transporting the actual troops to key battlegrounds as fast as possible. This meant that vehicle manufacturers were under pressure to create more HGVs at a rapid rate. In total, over 227,000 new HGVs were manufactured during this time, sending the number of long-haul vehicles in the UK skyrocketing. It also led to the formation of several new haulage companies to cope with the demand, and many of those companies are still operating today.


And now? The HGV isn’t done evolving yet. As the technology and the needs of society change, the haulage industry and the HGV itself will change as well. Over the last few years we’ve seen the invention of the electric HGV, as well as the self-driving HGV. So who knows what the future holds! If you would like to be part of the journey, why not become a HGV driver today? Just get in touch with us to find out more.

Get an instant quote

Trust us for local, affordable HGV training.

    Your Name

    Tel. Number

    Your Email

    Post Code

    Yes I consent to my data being stored for the purposes of this enquiry and marketing, in line with our Privacy Policy.